Evolutionary psychology and the explanation of ethnic phenomena

Evolutionary psychology and the explanation of ethnic phenomena

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From the book : Evolutionary Psychology 2: 142-159.
In a recent series of articles, Hislope (1998, 2000) and Harvey (2000a, 2000b) have raised questions about the usefulness of “evolutionary theory” especially for any purpose other than identifying “distal” causes of ethnic phenomena.
This article responds to those views and argues that evolutionary psychology shows great promise in contributing to the explanation of contemporary ethnic identities and ethnic conflict. The authors argue that an evolutionary psychology approach embraces research conducted through conventional social science approaches, helps to complete explanations of the proximate causes of ethnic conflict, and can recast thought and encourage new areas of research about important issues in the ethnic conflict field.
Illustrations are provided in support of each of these points.
Some of these arguments have been heard before with respect to the general role of evolutionary theory in explaining social phenomena but they are arguments we think bear repeating and illustrating in the context of the study of ethnic phenomena.
Before examining the ways that evolutionary psychology can contribute to social science explanation of ethnic phenomena, we summarize the general evolutionary psychology approach to the study of social behavior.

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Evolutionary Psychologyhuman-nature.com/ep  2004. 2: 142-159¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯Original ArticleEvolutionary Psychology and the Explanation of Ethnic Phenomena David B. Goetze, Department of Political Science, 0725 Old Main Hill, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322-0725, USA. Email: dgoetze@hass.usu.edu. Patrick James, Political Science Department, 113 Professional Building, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. Email: jamesp@missouri.edu.Abstract:series of articles, Hislope (1998, 2000) and Harvey (2000a, a recent  In 2000b) have raised questions about the usefulness of evolutionary theory especially for any purpose other than identifying distal causes of ethnic phenomena. This article responds to those views and argues that evolutionary psychology shows great promise in contributing to the explanation of contemporary ethnic identities and ethnic conflict. The authors argue that an evolutionary psychology approach embraces research conducted through conventional social science approaches, helps to complete explanations of the proximate causes of ethnic conflict, and can recast thought and encourage new areas of research about important issues in the ethnic conflict field. Illustrations are provided in support of each of these points. Some of these arguments have been heard before with respect to the general role of evolutionary theory in explaining social phenomena but they are arguments we think bear repeating and illustrating in the context of the study of ethnic phenomena. Before examining the ways that evolutionary psychology can contribute to social science explanation of ethnic phenomena, we summarize the general evolutionary psychology approach to the study of social behavior. Keywords: affective intelligence model, Balkans, Bosnia, ethnic conflict, fitness cliff, inclusive fitness, intolerance, kinship bonding, martyr, nationalism, proximate cause, Rwanda, social norms, threat ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯Evolutionary Psychology Approach An elaborate description and defense of the general evolutionary psychology approach to the study of social science phenomena is found in Tooby and Cosmides (1990, 1992), Cosmides and Tooby (1994) and Buss (1995). Because ethnic
Evolutionary Psychology and the Explanation of Ethnic Phenomena
phenomena and ethnic conflict are human social phenomena there is no obvious reason why evolutionary psychology cannot be applied to their study and, indeed, ample reason why it makes sense to do so. Van den Berghe (1981), Johnson, (1986) and Salter (2000), for example, have strongly suggested that psychological mechanisms revolving around kinship bonding are pivotal in generating ethnic behaviors.  More broadly, an evolutionary psychology approach posits that, through the process of natural selection, humans have acquired a diverse array of mental mechanisms. Each one is designed to respond to the demands of a specific environmental problem or task that is relevant to the survival and reproductive success of the individual and has been repeatedly encountered by humans in the environment of evolutionary adaptation. Persistent exposure to a particular environmental problem over large numbers of generations results in the evolution of a well-defined adaptation in the form of a psychological mechanism.  In general, evolved psychological mechanisms are thought to operate in an algorithmic fashion. Scanning and filtering functions of a mechanism identify environmental stimuli that constitute a particular environmental problem or task and elicit specific emotions and behaviors that address the problem or task in ways that contribute to its adaptive resolution. Evolved psychological mechanisms are thought to exist for addressing innumerable problems and tasks such as: mate choice, hunting, alliance formation, and reputation-building, to name only a few. Among the problems and tasks relevant to ethnic phenomena are: group bonding and cooperation for both benign and malevolent purposes, and responses to the menace of group threat and conflict. Embracing Conventional Research Research that adopts an evolutionary psychological approach can be quite complementary with traditional social science research that addresses these same ethnic phenomena. When developed insights of evolutionary psychology are brought into the analysis explanations can be expanded and given more meaning. To the point, an especially crucial aspect of the explanation of ethnic phenomena involves the description of human nature. The most common way of facilitating explanations among traditional researchers is to adoptad hoc and implied assumptions about human nature and to investigate causal factors consistent only with those assumptions. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists do not take nature for granted and, instead, hypothesize about the relevant mechanisms of the human brain that come into play as humans engage in ethnic behaviors. They bring novel elements to an explanation by fleshing out hypotheses about the possible connections among environmental stimuli, mental activity, and actual behaviors that generations of adaptations have given us. Evolutionary psychology approaches synthesize traditional dichotomies between so-called nature and nurture by acknowledging the interaction between environment and culture on the one hand and the genetically-
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inspired mechanisms and molds of human social behaviors on the other. Ultimately, behaviors result from these interactions as environmental events trigger mental mechanisms, shape the paths of human development, and even co-evolve with the mechanisms themselves (Ridley, 2003; Marcus, 2003). The evolutionary concept of inclusive fitness (developed by Hamilton (1964, 1970, 1971) and West-Eberhard (1975) and popularized by Wilson (1975) and Dawkins (1979, 1982)) has provided a dramatic boost to the explanation of social behavior. Inclusive fitness refers to the idea that humans enhance the spread of genes like their own by acting beneficently towards close kin and that natural selection would have favored genes that expressed such beneficent behavior. While the basic concept is widely accepted in the evolutionary psychology field, the role of inclusive fitness in explaining the existence of altruism and bonding for groups larger than families and clans is still developing. Van den Berghe (1981) and Johnson (1986) have emphasized evolved mechanisms that activate kinship bonding whenever humans recognize appropriate markers in others (i.e., encounter specific initiating environmental stimuli) such as ethnic features, language, and mere association. These markers serve as indicators for whomever might qualify as remote or perceived family among the multitudes of contemporary societies. Rushton (1989) identifies phenotypic similarities as the stimuli that initiate kinship bonding mechanisms. Goetze (1998) argues that all of these psychological mechanisms likely evolved in hunter-gatherer society but their ability to generate bonding in large-scale groups derives, in part, from the mobility of modern humans and the difficulties in mobile societies of actually locating real kin. Hence, humans exhibit at least minimal bonding emotions and behaviors with large numbers of surrogate family.  In traditional research, debate about the depth and durability of ethnic attachments has been carried on between the primordialists who see such bonding as strong, extremely durable and originating far into a sometimes mysterious past and circumstantialists who see group bonding as ephemeral and interest-driven (Scott, 1990). While not sealing the case for primordialism, inclusive fitness concerns provide at least some scientific footing for the position and reduces some of the mystery about group origins by demonstrating how strong, durable ethnic group attachments might have formed and persevered. An historian, Peter Mentzel (2000) utilizes the concept of a kinship bonding mechanism to explore variation in the origins of nationalist loyalties and viable nation-states in the Balkans, especially as they developed under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. To begin, he notes that nationalism, the politically active expression of ethnic identity, resulted in more effective and stable nation-states in Croatia, Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria than in the territories largely populated by Albanians. The former can all point to politically autonomous units emerging as the th cohesion and strength of the Ottoman Empire waned. By the 19 century, Serbia established a full-fledged nation-state that would endure through the Yugoslav period and maintain its cohesiveness despite disastrous attempts by Serbian political elites to establish a Serbian Empire all its own, despite the essential loss of the region of
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Kosovo, and despite the economic deprivations imposed by NATO bombing and a regime of economic sanctions. In contrast, an Albanian political entity did not develop until the Yugoslav era, failed to incorporate the lion's share of the adjacent Albanian population, and has continued in a status so fragile that a collapsing pyramid scheme nearly tore the fledgling Albanian state asunder.  A traditional issue for scholars and for Mentzel is explaining the development of nations or nation-states and in the particular case, why the Croats, Serbs, Bulgars, and Greeks, and even Bosnians have been successful at state-building and the Albanians were relatively unsuccessful. A traditional answer has been to assert that nationalisms are constructions of political elites designed to serve their political ends and that elite manipulations are the focal point for understanding the building of nation-states (See, for example, Rothschild, 1981; Mason, 1994). This approach begs the question, however, of why such constructions would have resonated with mass populations or why they would have failed to do so. Mentzel's analysis provides a persuasive connection between elite manipulations and the responses of the masses. Following the work on kinship bonding and especially that of Johnson (1986), he argues that kinship is the foundation stone for the often cooperative, emotional and fairly durable attachments that individuals make to larger social associations and, ultimately, to national groups. The evolved psychology of kinship is not perfectly refined and humans react in kin-like manner (forge strong attachments to nonkin) when the triggers of kinship attachment are invoked. Calls to protect theMotherland, for example, can stir the sacrificial behaviors of broad classes of unrelated peoples. This can work even when political leaders  and institutions more generally  lack a democratic base of public legitimacy. The archetypal case is Josef Stalin's appeal to fight for 'Mother Russia' against the German invaders. Not everyone listened, but the point is that even Stalin eschewed an ideological or personal appeal in this instance, understanding at a fundamental level that kinship had the best chance of working under the most dire of conditions. Mentzel's unique contribution here is in showing how a layered development of ever larger associations could produce national level associations and how the absence of this line of development serves as an obstacle to the leap from direct kin-based groups to the enormous and often demanding associations of nations and nation-states. He argues that clan-based associations needed to pass through intermediate associations that were constructed on evocation of kin sentiments before they could make the leap to national groups. In the Balkans, the intermediate associations that would perform those functions were the autonomous confessional associations, more commonly thought of as religious associations. Except for Croatia, the growth of Balkan nationalisms could be traced to the religious millets organized in the Ottoman Empire. According to Mentzel, these formal, nonterritorial associations were coterminous with the less formal religious groups that had developed as large-scale, transcendent replacements for earlier clan associations. The evocation of kinship had enabled these religious associations to emerge and were
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given added impetus by Ottoman organizational schemes. These events had succeeded in pushing social organization into large-scale associations that were, nonetheless, cemented by deep-seated emotional attachments. The final step in the transition to nationalisms was to define territories and add political status to these large-scale associations. Nation-states in the Balkans can be seen as territorial and political extensions of religious associations or, as in the Bosnian case, as more or less tenuous alliances among these associations.  Albania is the exception. Religious associations apparently never succeeded in forging clan associations into transcendent associations. Albanians adhere in significant numbers to Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, and Islam but those faiths did not serve to organize clans or to evoke extensively the triggers of kinship affiliation that an organization of clans would have enabled. Interclan relations and amalgamations were not coterminous with religious affiliation. Lacking religious grounds, elites attempted to build national identity out of a sense of common language, but this effort was limited by the obvious reality that Albanians spoke two distinct languages. In Mentzel's (2000, p. 251) own words: To restate all of this one could argue that Albanian nationalists faced such a difficult task precisely because they needed to confront (and attempt to co-opt) kinship relations such as the Albanian clans directly without being able to use confessional group attachments as an intermediary or disguised kinship association. Hence, Albanian nationalist intellectuals stressed linguistic nationalism in their attempts to build an Albanian national consciousness, an effort made difficult because of the Gheg/Tosk division. Efforts to develop national identities and states in most Balkan communities succeeded because of a progressive effort to expand the scale and depth of associations that elicit kin-based affiliations. Efforts to forge a national identity in Albania have not yet culminated in comparable success because the evocation of kinship affiliation was not or could not be used to forge a progression of supra-kin associations. In paralleling traditional scholarship and in studying the construction of national identity, Mentzel has rendered the variation in a truly important and widely studied political phenomenon more understandable by elaborating on a fundamental concept from the repertoire of evolutionary psychology. Hopefully, Mentzel's work will inform and enrich the continuing work of traditional scholars in this field. Completing ExplanationsThe categories of research examined here are by no means exclusive. Mentzel's research was clearly directed at completing an explanation of national identities. Because it was so firmly embedded in traditional historical research, we chose to use it as an example of the first category, embracing conventional
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research. The research reported on below could also be placed in the same category. We place it in the category of completing explanations, however, because of its potential in making complete an explanation of ethnic conflict where the lack of completeness is especially salient.  This research (Goetze and Smith, 2004) demonstrates how evolutionary psychology has the potential for playing an important role in constructing explanations of ethnic conflict that include theproximate of ethnic conflict. causes This suggestion actually runs counter to the positions of Hislope and Harvey who, in a previously noted series of articles (Hislope,1998; 2000; Harvey,2000a; 2000b), review the contributions of evolutionary theory to the study of ethnic conflict. These authors argue that evolutionary theory has the capacity to identify only thedistalcauses of ethnic conflict.  While acknowledging that evolved traits are important in such distal explanations, Hislope (2000, pp. 161-162) prefers to focus on culture as the source of proximate explanations: A second reason for the inclusion of genetic factors when a dependent variable appears explained by culture revolves around the difference between proximate and distal explanations. While culture may stand in an unmediated and direct causal path to any given behavioral trait, what makes the cultural factor possible could be a certain biological predisposition, a gene, or a novel turn in the evolutionary history of the species. Hence, exploring distal causal factors helps to complete the chain of causation and provides an understanding of why things are the way they are. If sociobiologists were to frame their study in such exploratory "distal" terms, it is likely they could silence some of their more severe critics. Later, Hislope (2000, p. 174) offers his view on the extent of the reach of evolutionary theory - the longest reach being in the cultural evolutionary variant: The argument advanced herein is that the articulation of cultural evolutionary theory represents theoretical progress over sociobiology, but its explanatory payoff remains limited due to the role of contingency in human affairs and the significance of non-evolutionary, proximate causal factors. While evolutionary theory undoubtedly elucidates the development of all organic life, it would seem to operate best at macro-levels of analysis, "distal" points of explanation, and from the perspective of the long-term. Hence, it is bound to display shortcomings at micro-level events that are highly contingent in nature. Likewise, Harvey (2000b, p. 184) finds evolutionary theory wholly inadequate for
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even contributing to the explanation of micro events such as the outbreak of war and ethnic violence: Research on evolutionary theory, phenotype matching and kinship affiliations is extremely useful for understanding the root causes of patriotism, nationalism (both ethnic and non-ethnic), xenophobia, and even racism. But it cannot explain ethnic war - that particular subset of human social interaction that involves a high level of inter-group violence and hostility. Nor can it account for variations in the severity and timing of ethnic violence more generally. Stronger explanations for this variability focus on environmental forces, some of which underscore the prominent role played by ethnic elites in the mobilization process. We can easily share the observation that evolutionary theory has previously offered little in the way of adding to proximate explanation of ethnic conflict. That condition is, we believe, only temporary and Hislope and Harvey have underestimated the potential that evolutionary psychology offers in forming proximate explanations of social behavior including the outbreak of ethnic conflict. Again, we do not claim that evolved mechanisms are the only source for constructing explanations of social behaviors. We agree with Hislope that monocausal explanations of social phenomena are unlikely to be sustainable. We do argue, however, that evolved psychological mechanisms typically play large roles in accounting for most social behaviors including the outbreak of ethnic conflict. And, what often seem to be cultural events independent of and cut off from evolutionary processes may themselves have evolved as functional adaptations that complement or activate embedded psychological mechanisms. In a preliminary study of the triggers of ethnic conflict, Goetze and Smith (2004) report on a mechanism derived from evolutionary psychology premises that illustrate these interactions in the context of group mobilization for conflict. In particular, they posit an alarm mechanism that disposes individuals to organize in the defense and offense of their ethnic group when viable and deadly threats to the security of their group are experienced. The behavioral manifestations of this mechanism are precisely the organization of group defense and offense when threats are encountered and, as activating stimuli, the dissemination of threats (cultural phenomena) by political elites who wish to engender a conflict situation.  Why would humans possess such a mechanism? Alexander (1979, section 4) has speculated that humans developed alarm mechanisms that might even be specific to human threats as a result of cumulative experiences in the environment of evolutionary adaptation. Once humans had emerged as the dominant species able to defend against nonhuman predators, their most feared competitors were other humans and especially other humans who were organized as a group for the purpose of predatory mayhem. Behaviors that served as responses to threats from other humans
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may have been necessary for immediate survival and became adaptive as threat circumstances were repeated over the generations.  One can imagine that an array of menacing stimuli provokes defensive reactions and that an array of behaviors could manifest those reactions. A plausible speculation is that murderous threats and actions directed at members of an ethnic group due to their ethnic identity are included among the array of menacing stimuli. Likewise, behavioral dispositions to organize group defense or offense in the face of those threats are included among the array of adaptive reactions. Empirical evidence that such connected stimuli and behaviors are universal across cultures and group conflict conditions would constitute considerable support for believing them to be part of an evolved psychological mechanism - their universality arguing for adaptations formulated early and effectively in the EEA. Goetze and Smith (2004) report on two such cases of intense, violent ethnic group conflict in Bosnia and Rwanda, respectively, and examined the circumstances that preceded the outbreak of organized hostilities in each case.  In Bosnia in 1995, the contagion effect of group hostilities in neighboring regions was clearly in play. Croat and Serb (officially, Yugoslav) forces had recently engaged in a full-scale war and tensions in Bosnia about what Serbs in the region might do next were certainly high. Serbian elites within Bosnia who controlled television transmissions began disseminating reports of Muslim atrocities against Serbian villagers in which the latter were reportedly murdered by the former. No documentation that these events actually occurred has been put forward suggesting very strongly that the reports were concocted by Serbian elites in order to send off alarm bells in the minds of the Serbian masses. In many Serbian villages, the organization of militias soon followed and these militias were, in turn, often organized into more regular forces for carrying on systematic hostilities within Bosnia.  These media messages about Muslim atrocities were, of course, available to Muslim elites and masses and one would expect that Muslims would organize militias in alarm over Serbian activities. Yet initially, Muslims did not commence organization of communal militias on a widespread basis. Perhaps the messages did not deliver the same provocative stimuli as they delivered to the Serbs. More likely, however, reactions are conditioned by the degree of vulnerability of the group to assaults by other groups. Groups that are most vulnerable and relatively defenseless against communal assaults, as the Muslims were at that time, have often tended to keep a low profile reminiscent of the freeze tactics that other small mammals assume when confronted with superior predators. A rational explanation of this behavior is that individuals in vulnerable groups assess that their own defense preparations could provoke other groups into preemptive assaults and that the balance of forces does not offer favorable outcomes to the vulnerable group. Humans surely make calculations of this sort but only evolutionary psychology offers an explanation as to why some manner of calculation clicks on in these types of situations - such situations have been repeatedly encountered in the environment of evolutionary
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adaptation and selection favored mental mechanisms that could generate behaviors that optimally responded to the threats to survival and reproduction.  In Rwanda in 1994, Hutu elites disseminated messages over mass media that made reference to Tutsi atrocities committed against Hutu villagers, but Hutus required little convincing as the reality of recent Tutsi assaults on Hutus in neighboring Burundi was common knowledge. Again, the atmosphere was already tense and Hutu elites needed only to persuade Hutus that similar massacres could easily occur in their own country. In fact, the media campaign was geared primarily to spurring the organization of Hutus for the purpose of massacring Tutsis and eliminating the latter from the country.  At least within Rwanda itself, Tutsis lacked resources to mount any kind of defense against what developed as genocidal killing. Hence, in most regions of the country, their reaction was predictably oriented toward the freeze alternative and little organization was observable among them to combat Hutu assaults. Only the regions bordering Uganda experienced a military response. Tutsis had held important positions within the Ugandan army and constituted an important proportion of its manpower. Out of that military diaspora, a Rwandan army (Rwandan Population Front or RPF) was forged that ultimately invaded Rwanda and drove out the Hutu militias as well as the regular Hutu army units. All of this happened despite the relatively small numbers of Tutsis in the Rwandan population (at any time no more than 20%) and despite the nearly successful attempt at massacring the entire Tutsi civilian population. Perhaps two-thirds of the Tutsi population would be slaughtered before the RPF would take control of the country. The massive acquiescence of the Rwandan Tutsis was notable for its uniformity of form -- almost no civilians attempted any resistance or attempted to organize a resistance - and its universality -all civilians appeared to react in the same fashion. An evolved psychological mechanism that generates uniform behaviors in response to similar and powerful stimuli offers as much explanation as any for the lack of variation in behaviors, a pattern that seems anomalous from a common sense point of view.  At the same time, variation in response to murderous threats was clearly apparent across the Balkans and Rwandan cases and across the groups within the Balkans. Goetze and Smith posit that a complex of stimuli that include murderous threats and perceived military capabilities affect whether freeze or mobilization responses emerge. Another possibility is that perceived credibility of reports of murderous assaults shapes mobilization responses. Clearly, false reports of group assault will encounter different responses from one society to the next. Some societies will be disposed to accept these reports as true. Others will dismiss them rapidly as without substance. In the USA, reports from white supremacists groups that Jews and African Americans are murdering whites are generally not believed. The important issue then becomes: what are the environmental conditions that nurture disbelief in one society or, conversely, what are the environmental conditions that make such reports credible?
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Recasting Thought Evolutionary theory can recast thought, encourage new areas of research, and generate novel hypotheses about important issues in the ethnic conflict field and help to determine which areas of research are especially important. Threat Mechanism  A unique question raised by an evolutionary psychology approach is exactly how does an evolved psychological mechanism function? How do specific behaviors connect algorithmically with specific environmental stimuli? Marcus, Wood, and Theiss-Morse (1998) attempt to isolate the workings of what they call a threat mechanism. In particular, they develop a model that connects specific environmental stimuli with a set of behaviors that they labelintolerance are interested in. They intolerance directed at members of an out-group, typically some manner of ethnic or racial group. The primary problem, as they see it, is to identify the environmental stimuli that provoke intolerant behaviors. Identifying the right stimuli can be accomplished, however, only by gaining understanding of the process through which stimuli are translated into behaviors.  They begin their model-building task by first reviewing features of two general models that have been used to explain threat behaviors  a rational actor model and a symbolic politics model. The salient features of a rational actor model include an assessment mechanism that initiates intolerance behaviors whenever threatening stimuli are perceived. More specifically, the mechanism surveys the environment and assesses the probability of a dangerous event occurring. Intolerance behaviors are seen as coping devices designed to ameliorate or nullify the danger. An individual might attempt to deprive a group of political rights, for example, if members of that group are engaging in behaviors that have a high probability of infringing on the status of one's own group.  A symbolic politics model identifies provocative behavior as the mere presence of a member of a group that is associated with a threat earlier in one's life or the presence of some symbol of the group. People respond to these symbols in intolerant ways not because they pose real threats or even a probability of real threat in the contemporary environment but because the symbols acquired a negative valence (through cultural transmission or conditioning) at a distant time in the past. Environmental stimuli are not assessed through rational calculation that evaluates the degree of threat but almost subconsciously in a way that arouses emotional responses. By triggering affect and emotion, intolerant behaviors are set in motion. The type of stimuli that initiate this sequence are deviations from norms - an action, event, or person that represents a violation of the status quo and carries the associated negative valence.  Marcus, Wood, and Theiss-Morse (1998) find fault with these models and propose a new model that corrects for deficiencies. They cite previous work (Kinder
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and Sears, 1981) that demonstrates that the degree of threat posed in a contemporary environment fails to elicit appropriately measured intolerance responses and other studies (Hamill, Wilson, and Nisbett, 1980; Jennings, Amabile, and Ross, 1982; Kahneman and Tversky, 1982; Nisben and Ross, 1982) that show that the human brain may not be adept at processing threats in a conscious calculated manner. They note that rational calculation of threat is unlikely to be the process invoked in threatening circumstances because rational calculation is a relatively time-intensive process and threats need rapid responses. Hence, the subconscious, affective system of processing is more likely to be invoked because this system processes stimuli at very rapid speeds.  However, the notion that even the affective system is triggered to produce coping responses by high values on a differentiated threat dimension may by misguided. The degree of immediate danger is not likely to be the activating stimuli. Instead, the authors suggest that threat responses tend to be provoked when out-groups are perceived to be engaging in violations of accepted societal norms - in other words, alarm bells tend to go off when out-groups are disrupting the societal environment - an intriguing conclusion that suggests a new class of behaviors that ought to be examined in the search for proximate causes of ethnic conflict.  In a clever experimental design, Marcus, et al (1995) tested the validity of the rational choice model, the symbolic politics model, and their own affective intelligence model. First, subjects were given the opportunity to rate a wide variety of different groups according to their likes and dislikes. This procedure enabled subjects to rely on their previously secured affective disposition ... Two weeks later the same subjects were confronted with alternative scenarios involving actions of groups that they had rated as least-liked. The actions were distinguished by whether the disliked groups were moving into positions in society where they could pose danger to the subject or by whether the actions of the group violated accepted norms of social or political behavior. Thus, the scenarios created an opportunity to assess, on the one hand, the likelihood of threat and, on the other hand, the violation of social norms. In an initial study, the subjects were presented with written scenarios and in a subsequent study, subjects were presented with actual news broadcasts. The results were similar in both studies. They found that the degree of threat did not provoke differences in tolerance/intolerance evaluations as measured by a post-experiment questionnaire. However, violations of social norms did elicit more intolerant responses, thereby, supporting that aspect of the affective intelligence model that identifies norm violations as the environmental activators of the mechanism that generates intolerant behaviors.  In a follow-up experiment; Marcus, Wood, and Theiss-Morse (1998) also measured the affective-anxiety levels of subjects as they were being exposed to news broadcasts that did or did not display violations of social norms. They found that anxiety levels were significantly higher when violations of social norms were present in the news broadcasts, again lending credence to the notion that processing of the threat was taking place on an emotional level rather than on the level of rational
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